By Jon Meoli, email@example.com
8:20 PM EST, December 1, 2012
Former State Sen. Francis Kelly has helped engineer the University of Maryland Medical System's hospital acquisitions all around the state.
But over the past two years, his focus was turned to his hometown hospital, St. Joseph's Medical Center.
The community hospital in Towson was in the news for all the wrong reasons, but a combination of personal loyalty and a belief in the hospital's value to the community led the senator to push his colleagues on the UMMS board to acquire St. Joseph's.
"What I saw up here was a great hospital in a great location with a good payer mix, with people who I knew — a lot of them dedicated and very good at what they do," Kelly, of Hunt Valley, said this week.
"What was broken was not the fault of the people out here," he said, "and to me, that's a great asset."
The sale of St. Joseph Medical Center has been in the works for months. The hospital had seen revenue losses and legal issues since early 2010, after cardiologist Dr. Mark Midei, who is no longer involved with the hospital, was accused of performing unnecessary stent operations. Midei has denied wrongdoing, but St. Joseph incurred lawsuits and a federal investigation in the wake of the accusations.
UMMS officially completed the deal to acquire St. Joseph's Friday, Nov. 30, with the new ownership going into effect on Dec. 1. The hospital will now be known as University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.
Kelly, who has been on the UMMS board since 1984, will assume the role as chairman of the St. Joseph's board, and Timonium resident Dr. Mohan Suntha will be the hospital's CEO — an appointment that Kelly lauded as a visionary step for the hospital.
Though the former senator for the Timonium area could not discuss terms of the deal in an interview this week, he reflected on its impact on both the caregivers and patients of his community hospital.
He said all 10 of his grandchildren — including members of the Kelly family who compose the Calvert Hall lacrosse dynasty — were born at St. Joseph's, and Kelly credits Dr. Paul McAfee for treating his son, Bryan, when his back needed attention midway through his All-American lacrosse career at North Carolina.
"He couldn't even walk coming home from his sophomore year," Kelly said. "He was the top recruit in the country, and he couldn't play. Paul fixed him up, and he was an All-American his last two years."
With such a personal connection, Kelly acknowledges that he "pushed very hard" to complete the deal.
As time went on, Kelly said, both sides began to understand the value that the system and hospital could have to each other.
"We didn't see anybody out there who could come in here and have the resources — not just financial, people resources, management, doctors — that could help them turn it around from a position they did not create themselves," Kelly said. "There's not a lot of bad going on out here."
Forging the deal meant navigating a number of obstacles, including the purchase price and whether or not St. Joseph could retain its identity as a Catholic hospital.
Kelly said the Archdiocese of Baltimore recently approved the hospital's request to continue operating as a Catholic hospital, meaning it will continue to follow the Ethical and Relgious Directives written by the church.
"Everything's about quality … and that's what those directives are geared toward — the highest quality we possibly can," Kelly said. "We'd be doing that anyway."
As part of UMMS system, Kelly said, the hospital's cardiology, orthopedic and oncology programs will continue to serve the community well. But as a teaching hospital, St. Joseph's repertoire will expand with other medical fields of the same quality.
That quality, Kelly said, is what will help bring St. Joseph's back in the public eye.
"The major thing that we're interest in is two words: quality, number one, and growth," he said.
"We have to grow ourselves back to bring the business back that we've lost," he said, "and you don't grow without quality. You don't stay in business without quality."